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Effects of Cocaine

Effects of cocaine. This article contains: the effects of cocaine use, list of cocaine effects, prolonged cocaine use effects, other side effects of cocaine use, unwanted psychological effects, respitory effects, and unwanted physical effects of cocaine use.


The Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine causes the most rapid stimulation and subsequent comedown of all the plant-derived stimulants.

Cocaine forces the release the body’s own energy chemicals: 

  • Norepinephrine, a stimulatory chemical,
  • Dopamine, a pleasure-inducing chemical

These brain chemicals stimulate the brain’s reward/ enforcement center. At the same time, cocaine prevents these chemicals from being reabsorbed. The result causes the brain’s neurotransmitters to exaggerate existing messages while simulating new ones. Therefore, the user will stay up past normal exhaustion and feel alert until the neurotransmitters completely deplete. Because cocaine is also metabolized quickly by the body, the initial euphoria, the feeling of confidence and the sense of omnipotence disappear as suddenly as they appear causing the resulting crash to feel particularly depressing. This depression can last a few hours, several days or even a few weeks.

Cocaine effects:

  • Induces a feeling of euphoria 
  • Releases a surge of energy
  • Constricts blood vessels
  • Increases heart rate
  • Raises blood pressure

Prolonged use effects:

  • Depletes energy resources
  • Induces paranoia/schizophrenia
  • Triggers intense craving
  • Causes sexual dysfunction
  • Damages heart muscles, arteries and other blood vessels
  • Increases risk of seizures and strokes

Other side effects of cocaine use include:

  • Formication- A side effect of long-term or high-dose cocaine use resulting in an imbalance in the sensory neurons causing the sensation that hundreds of little bugs are crawling under the skin. Known as Coke bugs or Snow bugs. This sensation causes users to scratch themselves bloody trying to get at the imaginary insects.
  • Cocaine Psychosis - Because cocaine increases dopamine, repeated use can trigger stimulant-induced paranoid psychosis/schizophrenia.
  • Seizures - This effect is caused by overdose, stroke or hemorrhage and occurs in 2% to 10% of regular cocaine users
  • Crack Thumb or Crack Hands - Caused by repetitive use of butane lighters forming calluses that build up on the thumb and the hand has multiple burns.
  • Crack Keratitis - Abrasions of the eye caused by the user rubbing the eye too much.

Unwanted psychological effects:

  • Paranoia
  • Intense craving
  • Asocial behavior
  • Attention problems
  • Irritability
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations

Respiratory Effects:

  • Severe fever
  • Chest pains
  • Breathing problems
  • Crack lung
  • The new syndrome describing the pneumonia like symptoms of crack smoking

Unwanted physical effects:

  • Slurred speech
  • Thirst
  • Coughing
  • Dry skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Tremors
  • Sore throat
  • Black or bloody sputum
  • Weight loss
  • Heart damage hypertension
  • Dental erosions - Resulting from poor dental hygiene, malnutrition and the erosive effects of acidic cocaine.

Cocaine and the Body

The body metabolizes cocaine quickly and just as quickly, the effects of cocaine disappear. However, cocaine use is detectable in urine for up to 36 hours. In addition, the half-life of cocaine is about 40-60 minutes. Meaning that half of the drug metabolizes and becomes inactive during that time.

Because the body quickly metabolizes cocaine, tolerance to the euphoric effects of the drug develops after the first injection or smoking session. Chronic users escalate their doses while chasing after the initial high. The more they use the less satisfying it becomes. Therefore, users continually seek the same intense rush of their first hit without ever achieving the same result.


  • Uppers, Downers All Arounders,Darryl S Inaba ‘Executive officer Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, San Francisco CA.’, William E. Cohen, ‘Haight Ashbury Detox Clinic’

Related Article: Signs of Cocaine Use >>

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